Diary

Revisiting Benghazi, Part 3: Shenanigans, the Attack, and Ineptitude

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

In part 1, I looked at the reason(s) Stevens was in Benghazi.  In part 2, I examined some regional geopolitics vis-a-vis the Syrian civil war and Obama’s “line in the sand” rhetoric regarding chemical attacks- chemicals likely spirited out of Libya.  Today, we turn to the actual attack and the ineptitude of the Obama administration in dealing with the deadly attack in Benghazi.

Stevens had a meeting with his Turkish counterpart who departed the compound at around 8:30 p.m.  At 9:40, about 150 heavily armed militia assembled at the compound and began the attack.  Gunfire was heard outside the compound followed by an explosion as armed militia stormed the barracks and made their way to the main building.  Within 20 minutes, they had breached the mission’s walls and headed for the ambassador’s residence.  Stevens was escorted by security agent Sean Smith to a secure room.  

An alert was sent to the CIA annex a mile away as well as the State Department and the embassy in Tripoli.  Stevens called his deputy in Tripoli to tell him the compound was “under attack.”  At 10:30, Stevens and Smith had taken refuge in a fortified room, but the insurgents set the building on fire and the ambassador and his escort were overcome with smoke.  Soon, an unarmed surveillance drone had arrived at the scene and Obama was informed of the attack.  Six US security agents along with 16 Libyan security guards left the CIA annex and headed for the mission.  By 12:07, the State Department sent out an email stating Ansar al-Sharia was claiming credit for the attack.

At 1:15, a rescue team arrives and Hillary Clinton is informed that all personnel have to be evacuated from Benghazi.  Believing they have Stevens, film later emerges at 2:00 a.m. of insurgents dragging Stevens from the compound.  Two hours later, the attack on the CIA annex commences killing another two Americans.  When Ty Woods arrived at the compound with his team, they recovered the dead body of Sean Smith, but Stevens was nowhere to be found.  The insurgents had taken his body to a hospital controlled by Ansar al-Sharia.  In these intervening hours, an American diplomat was now missing, presumed alive and a hostage of terrorists.  The situation on the ground was, at best muddled, while decision making at higher levels was, at best, inept.  Instead, it was up to two members of the military Special Forces who had been operating in Benghazi on a separate mission to go out and look for Stevens without specific orders to do so.  They located him in the hospital where there was an exchange of gunfire.

Stevens made three calls to Tripoli about the attacks.  As stated earlier, as Stevens and Smith were holed up in a special safe room, an unarmed drone arrived over the scene.  At AFRICON, General Carter Ham prepared an emergency response team, but was told to “stand down.”  It was later argued that there were no military assets in the area that would have made a difference mainly due to the unavailability of tanker support for the fighter jets. 

That was simply untrue as there were two squadrons of armed and ready F-16Cs at Aviano Air Base in Italy.  If those jets had left at 1:10 a.m., they would have reached Benghazi within 40 minutes and at least avoided the second attack which was on the CIA annex and the third deadly attack on the CIA annex.  It may not have been enough or in time to save Stevens, but it would have prevented the later two attacks on the annex and given a response team time to enter and secure the compound.  

Of course, if the one theory about the ambassador’s presence in Benghazi holds any water (he was there to secure Stinger missiles) it would have been embarrassing to have a US jet shot down by one of these missiles.  Calling Secretary Clinton…

Further, it later became apparent that the very morning of 9/11/12, Sean Smith had written a memo detailing the lack of security with the ominous message, “Assuming I don’t die tonight…”  He had observed a Libyan police officer taking pictures of the compound.  The CIA had made an agreement with the February 17 Brigade, a Libyan rebel faction, to form a rapid reaction team, but when the actual emergency came about, they failed to act.  It also appears that they obstructed rescue efforts by setting up checkpoints.  In the Smith memo, he notes that a Mr. Obeidi, a Libyan official in Benghazi, was contacted about the impending visit by Stevens and had requested additional security.  Obeidi denies having knowledge of the presence of Stevens in the city that day.

There is also the theory, for which there may be some truth, of the role of Iran in the attack on the embassy.  Iran became aware of the CIA-directed arms shipments funneled through Benghazi, then Turkey and finally Syrian rebels.  Qassem Suleimaini, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds force had hatched the scheme to break up the Benghazi operation by kidnapping Stevens.  To oversee the operation, Suleimani picked Ibrahim Mohammed Joudaki and Khalil Harb, a Hezbollah operative.  Harb had previously worked with Sunni rebels in the area during the Libyan civil war and had a force of about 50 people.  Iran continuously used Arab operatives to recruit over 1,000 Libyans into militias.  

Within a month of the outbreak of the civil war, NATO noted that elements of Hezbollah were operating in Libya in 2011.  Some within the CIA noted how the Quds Forces would often recruit Sunni fighters and associates since it was the mistaken consensus of US intelligence (Brennan/Clapper; Flynn was more realistic) that Sunni-Shiite cooperation was an impossibility.  In July 2012, an NSA listening post in Benghazi picked up a conversation in Farsi between two Quds operatives discussing an incoming squad that had a US diplomatic mission as their target.  CIA operatives saw them arrive disguised as humanitarian workers with the Red Crescent.  As they were tracked, they were “kidnapped” by Libyan militiamen, which the media reported.  It was later learned through British sources that the seven-member team was being held at a former military base and being treated well.  Somehow the Iranians became aware that the CIA was tracking them and the “kidnapping” was done to throw the CIA off their trail.  The Quds Forces and their Libyan militia allies now were forced to change their plans.  

In August, while in Dubai,  an Iranian official Ali Akbar Velayati, a key adviser to the Iranian leadership, warned that the Quds Force was becoming a rogue operation and that they planned to kidnap an American diplomat.  Responding to the situation on the ground, Stevens pleaded for more security in Benghazi on August 2nd.  Three weeks later, $8-10 million in euros was transferred to the al-Ansar Sharia militia from secret accounts based in Malaysia.  It is also known that Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, a cleric closely aligned with Iranian president Ahmadinejad, issued a fatwa calling for the death of Stevens.  As for the Turkish diplomat who last met with Stevens that night, it was later confirmed that he noted the presence of Stevens in the compound to some Libyans most likely associated with the Quds Forces.

The role of Sidney Blumenthal cannot be overlooked as he was providing intelligence to Clinton before and after Benghazi.  It was obvious that Hillary Clinton was using Blumenthal and his friends- Ty Drumheller and Cody Shearer- as a secret, private, de facto intelligence-gathering operation in Libya and elsewhere.  In Libya, Blumenthal’s motivation was financial as he was trying to break into the post-revolution Libyan economy on the ground floor.  Many of the emails sent to Clinton from Libya by Blumenthal outlined projects Blumenthal was involved in from providing military training for rebels to touting a Libyan businessman, Najib Obeida, as important to the economic success of Libya.  Obeida was being sought out as a business partner.  He promoted a deal sought by a US defense contractor- Osprey Global Solutions- in which Blumenthal had a financial stake.

There were also emails that seem to suggest that Blumenthal was seeking State Department financial intelligence to help Libya find an estimated $66 billion embezzled by Qaddafi and transferred to offshore accounts around the world.  The financial bonanza would have been enormous.  For example, using a conservative finder’s fee commission of 10%, even if Blumenthal recovered $1 billion, his company would stand to gain $100 million.  Blumenthal was trying to leverage his association with Clinton to obtain State Department information on where the pilfered funds could have been stored.  

One such person who could have known was Jonathan Winer who became a special envoy to Libya in 2013.  Previous to that, he was the deputy secretary of state for international law enforcement and instrumental in investigating money laundering and international financial crimes.  Although there is no evidence that Hillary Clinton followed up on the memos from Blumenthal, there is also no doubt that at some point Blumenthal and his associate, Cody Shearer, did meet and form an association that had become murky.  Later, in 2016, Blumenthal and Shearer passed on an opposition research dossier to Winer with accusations against Trump that mirrored those in the infamous Steele dossier.  This was seen as a way to bolster the truthfulness of the Steele dossier and a way to introduce corroborating “evidence” outside traditional law enforcement channels directly into the State Department.

It is clear that Benghazi overlaps with spygate in key aspects.  It partially explains the targeting of Mike Flynn.  It starts to explain how and why the wagons were being circled around Hillary Clinton in 2015-2016.

Next: The excuses and discovery of a private server